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174.1 I adapted the above from the envelope of a solicitation I received for life insurance….ooooh, I’m so scared! But anyway, there’s something I’m noticing on the internet, and it’s creeping into the dead-tree media too…that’s newspapers and magazines…made of paper, right? Everything is shocking! And this is intended as a positive thing…after all, a headline is meant to entice you into read the accompanying story…and if it’s going to shock you, well, that would hardly work if it caused people to not read the story. Still, who decided that people want to be shocked in the first place…I don’t, do you? Do you want to be appalled, horrified, disgusted, nauseated? Would you read an article that promised to make you puke? Not me, brother…morbid curiosity only goes so far, and I find as I get older, I have less of it, go figure. I suppose in 63 years I’ve had my fill of mutilated corpses, insane sex crimes, etc., etc. Heck, that’s why I don’t watch hardly any current TV shows…whew!
174.2 At the same time, I thought it might be fun to apply this mentality to kinship and genealogy, and write an article about some shocking bits of it. OK, shocking in the sense of surprising, hard to believe, didn’t see that coming. Nothing here today should make a normal, well-adjusted adult blanche or be grossed out…and if it does, you’re not thinking straight and ought to take a little time to yourself to get your moorings…find a nice quiet spot…maybe a steaming cup of tea…God, I hate tea…lady once asked me: Do you want anything in it?…and I said: Yeah, how about some coffee in it?…story of my life, I guess. Anyway, let’s dive in…
174.3 What’s Your Daddy?…I’ll admit, this still seems a bit amazing when I think of it, but it’s completely true: If your father is an identical twin, you are as closely related to him as you are to your uncle, his brother. Same with mothers, obviously. This is not to say that identical twins have absolutely identical DNA…with over 25,000 genes, there’s bound to be a hiccup here and there. But the astonishing degree to which identicals physically resemble each other pretty much tells the tale. And since half of your genes you got from your father, and your father has the same genes as your uncle, you share half your genes with your uncle…your relationship to him is ½, same as to your father. Mind you, your uncle is not a direct relative but a collateral one. You get genes from a direct ancestor, like your father…you share genes with a collateral, like your uncle, since you both got those genes ultimately from the same person…in this case, your grandfather, your uncle’s father.
174.4 As a consequence, your relation to your uncle’s children, your 1st cousins, is the same as it would be to half-siblings, 1/4. As you can see in Chart 618, for genetic purposes, identical twins are considered the same person. But of course this doesn’t mean your uncle is your father, nor are your 1st cousins your half-siblings. Identical twins is the one place where genealogy and genetics don’t agree…a rare and unusual situation, but it is what it is. The distinction to remember: genetics is what you have…genealogy is where you got it from.
174.5 Taking it one step further, if identical male twins marry identical female twins, their children will be as closely related as full siblings, ½. That’s genetically…genealogically, they are still double 1st cousins. Such a marriage is called a “quaternary marriage”…literally, a marriage between 4…not precisely what’s going on, but you get the idea. I have seen estimates ranging from 28 to 250 such couples in the world today…and yes, if you noticed something odd about the lower right picture above, those are identical twins from India…both college-educated veterinarians…who are simultaneously married to the same woman…just when you thought you’d heard of everything, nez pah?…details here.
174.6 All My Bastards…Baby Boomers grew up hearing of a thing called a “common law marriage.” What that is precisely is pretty much summed up by the other names for it: “marriage by habit and repute”…and the legal term “marriage sui juris,” literally in Latin “of one’s own right.” The reason it existed and its long and colorful history is quite involved, but suffice to say it is a marriage that is not formally registered with the government. Reminds me of Robert Louis Stevenson’s sardonic definition of marriage: “A friendship recognized by the police.”
174.7 Ironically, altho it has its basis in common law, as opposed to statutory law, what qualifies as a common law marriage and what doesn’t is set by legislation. And in the United States it has been legislated practically out of existence, now legal in only 9 states…Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah…and the District of Columbia.
174.8 Now back in History class, you may have been taught that Benjamin Franklin had a wife and family. What I’m sure they neglected to tell you was that he and Deborah Read were never legally married…theirs was a common law marriage. And no, they weren’t just “shacking up”…their union was solemnified by a traditional wedding ceremony on Sept. 1, 1730. That they were not “officially” married was a technicality that soon faded into a non-memory…but here’s story, and it’s pretty straightforward.
174.9 The two were teenage sweethearts…he fell in love with her while living at her mother’s rooming house…her father was dead. Ben was 17, Deb 15. Her mother forbad their marriage, not due to their ages, but because of his lack of financial security. Soon after, Deborah married a man named John Rodgers, and soon after that he absconded to the Barbados with her dowry, never to be heard from again. Because his whereabouts, and indeed his very existence, could not be determined, she could not divorce him…and thus, could not legally remarry. So she became Mrs. Benjamin Franklin in the only way she could, by common law.
174.10 So far, so good. But I promised you bastards, and bastards you shall have…in the old-fashioned sense of offspring born out of wedlock…born of parents who are not married…and this included parents who could not legally marry, regardless of whether they were living in a common law marriage. Now across much of the world today…and in the US thanks to Supreme Court decisions in the early 1970s, Equal Protection Clause and all that…the legal concept of illegitimacy and its consequences have all but disappeared. Still, by the letter of the law, Ben Franklin had no legitimate heirs. He and Deborah did have 2 children…the oldest, Francis Folger Franklin, died of smallpox at age 4…and Sarah “Sally” Franklin Bache was an ardent supporter of the American Revolution and served as her father’s political hostess after her mother’s death in 1774…she gave him 8 grandchildren, 7 of which lived to adulthood and produced a slew of great grandchildren.
174.11 Now what complicates the picture is the presence in the Franklin household of one William Franklin, acknowledged by Benjamin to be his illegitimate son, born before his marriage to Deborah Read. William was raised by them as their son…he called her “mother”…and to this day the identity of his real mother is not known…speculation at the time not surprisingly focused on Deborah herself. He grew to become the Governor of New Jersey, but remained a loyalist, was jailed for a time, then exiled to England where he remained for the rest of his life. Witness Benjamin Franklin’s will….
And if he sounds bitter…well, he was. But then these were human beings after all…and this whole account certainly puts the lie to Johnny Carson’s famous Carnak the Magnificent line…Answer: Ben Gay…Question: Why didn’t Mrs. Franklin have any children…
174.12 Those Pervy Pachyderms…and let me say at the outset that I don’t have the definitive answer for this…but that’s OK. I consider this to be a shout-out to those who are more knowledgable about Babar the Elephant than I am…and blogs are so easy to revise and update. In fact, I don’t recall reading any of the zillions of Babar books as a kid…if I did, they apparently made zero impression on me…and it certainly went right over my head, as I’m sure it does young readers today, that Babar married his cousin, Celeste.
174.13 And yes, the Babar franchise is alive and well, despite the occasional charges of impropriety…they say things like elephevert and Celestincest for gosh sakes. It’s all part of this hypersensitive response we see today to anything that smacks of interbreeding, no matter how remote. I chalk it up to plain old-fashioned ignorance, nothing more. I mean, in most Muslin countries today, over 50% of the marriage are between 1st cousins…in Pakistan it’s 70%…so where’s your multiculturalism now? Up until fairly recently, cousin marriages in the Western world were not uncommon and barely raised eyebrows. As my recent series Adventures in Cousinland demonstrated, a lot of very famous people married their cousins…my favorite being Albert Einstein, who was married to his 1st cousin on his mother’s side, altho she was also his 2nd cousin on his father’s side…they were what’s known as Irregular Double Cousins.
174.14 What’s more, the latest scientific studies say the genetic risk of even 1st cousin marriage has been greatly exaggerated…and no less than the hidebound Catholic Church will now allow them by special dispensation…look it up if you don’t believe me. But beyond the hysterical overreaction we see from some quarters, my question is this: Babar and Celeste were cousins how exactly? As we know, “cousin” in common parlance covers a lot of territory. The definitive answer would entail reading upwards of 40 volumes, begun by French author Jean de Brunhoff in 1931, and continued by his son Laurent in 1948…so let’s meet the family and friends…
Pom, Flora, and Alexander are the children of Babar and Celeste, triplets mentioned here in order of size, so you can spot them in the group photo, left…Isabelle is their baby sister. Prime Minister Cornelius is the oldest and wisest elephant in Celesteville, but no relation…and where exactly Arthur fits in is a question…notice in the group photo he is dressed as a child, but much older than the royal siblings.
174.15 As for textual evidence, I have only a few quotes gleaned from the internet, but they are significant. The red box above is from the first book, The Story of Babar…it is the first time we see Celeste and Arthur, and notice they are the same size…in the group photo above, Arthur is a child while Babar and Celeste are adults. The green box is also from that first book, and it tells us that Arthur and Celeste are not siblings, since they have different mothers. The blue box is much later, from 1973, Meet Babar and His Family…and Arthur is now clearly a child, the adult Babar’s “young cousin.”
174.16 Based just on these statements alone, it would be reasonable to assume that Babar and Celeste are 1st cousins, close in age, and Arthur is also a 1st cousin, tho much younger. A Babar animated series ran for 78 episodes on HBO and elsewhere in the 1990s…it was a joint Canadian, French, and Japanese production, and in it there was no mention of cousins…now Arthur was Celeste’s little brother and Babar’s brother-in-law. Still, you will often see the relationship between the 3 referred to as “2nd cousins”…what’s up with that? Well, I don’t know for certain, but my guess is it has to do with…wait for it….the translation!
174.17 Because these stories were originally written in French…sadly, I have not seen the red box quote in the original. I can only point out that in French petit cousin (if that’s indeed what it says) has 2 meanings…it can be a small or young cousin, presumably smaller or younger than oneself…but it can also mean a distant cousin…which is commonly taken in English to mean a 2nd cousin or beyond…”2nd cousin” for short! And that is where we must leave it for now…except to mention that a quick bit of research tells me that actual elephants, unlike many other types of mammals, seem able to detect cousins and prefer not to mate with them, but will if there is no alternative. Next week, be sure to bring your bat and glove…because it’s…Play Ball!!
OK, I couldn’t resist diagramming our friends from India….and once again, there is a split between the genealogical and the genetic. Genealogically, offspring X and Y (in reality there are 7 of them all together) are half-siblings thru their mother, and 1st cousins thru their fathers…half-way between half-siblings and full siblings, which is why they’re called “3/4 siblings”…confusingly, since their degree of relationship is 3/8. But genetically, their fathers are the same person, so the offspring are the equivalent of full siblings…so help me…
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